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A Charter provision to protect legitimate Detroit residents’ interest

Ken L. Harris

Ken L. Harris

Editorial Note: Ken Harris, who served on the Charter Revision Commission, posted the following comment on Facebook:

Although I can speak only for myself, as a former Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner, I can tell you that the citizens of Detroit aggressively advocated for the one-year residency requirement for anyone seeking elected office at-large or in newly formed council districts.

The decision to require that all candidates meet the Detroit City Charter residency requirements at least one year prior to the date of filing was to ensure that residents were a vital part of the community prior to seeking office. The Detroit Charter unambiguously says the following:

Section 2-101: “A person seeking elective office must be a citizen of the United States, a resident and a qualified registered voter of the city of Detroit for one year at the time of filing for office and retain that status throughout their tenure in any such elective office.”

Section 3-111: “All candidates for elective office and elected officials shall be bona fide residents of the city of Detroit and must maintain their principal residence in the city of Detroit for one year at the time of filing for office or appointment to office.”

The citizens unequivocally termed the word filing to construct a clearly defined, measurable and certifiable policy to qualify anyone seeking office and to determine their time as an official resident and voter of Detroit. We wanted the language to be unmistakably and explicitly easy to interpret by registered voters and residents for accountability purposes.

In essence, I supported the residency requirement to safeguard proper representation of the Detroit taxpayer, voter and resident. In political economies such as Detroit’s, residents should have a voice at every level of government and its necessary accountability, without the influence of special interests.

We eliminated any ambiguity, leaving virtually no wiggle room for misinterpretation of the new law adopted by the citizens during the Detroit Charter Revision process.

Although I do not and cannot speak on behalf of the other former Detroit Charter Revision Commissioners or the commission’s staff, I do give my opinion on behalf of the Detroit citizens who participated in the process to adopt the language and the thousands of Detroit voters who approved the new Detroit City Charter in 2012.

This is not an official statement of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce and or other leadership roles I serve in other capacities.

Those who did not participate in Detroit’s last electoral process may or may not be aware of what the Detroit Charter Revision Process entailed, which Detroit voiced and endured for government accountability.

Respectful of the Citizens of Detroit,

Ken L. Harris
Former Member of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission (2009–12)


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